Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Thoughts on "playing school" and living life...

Though, I am a complete newbie at the art, I consider myself an aikidōka, or Aikido practitioner.  Every Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday, barring illness or family emergency, I go to "our" dojo and subject myself to the teaching of the Sensei.

I enter the dojo, and remove my shoes at the door.  After changing into my Gi, I make a standing bow to enter the mat.   A few minutes before class time my classmates and I warm up and formally seat ourselves (seiza) along the Shimoza in quiet meditation to rid our minds of the day's problems and prepare for study.

As I sit, practicing deep abdominal breathing, and taking in the smells, sounds, and sights of the moment, My peripheral vision notes my my instructor as he makes his way onto the mat.  He seats himself facing the Kamiza, slapping back his hakama as he does so. We formally bow in, a process which ends with our saying "Onegai shimasu," Loosely translated "Please give me your instruction."

All of this takes place before a single piece of technique is demonstrated or any kata performed. Is this some religious observance? No. We bow as a sign of respect for our classmates, our teacher, and our discipline, among other things.  Of course this observance is so much more.  I would rather miss Aikido altogether than come late and miss bowing in.  This is not simply etiquette.  It's part of the aesthetic of what we're doing.  It puts us in the right frame of mind. As a designer, I would say that this is one of those moments where form is as important as function.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Aikido, Iaido, The Internet, & The Phone book?

My Quest

This last October, Lanette and I had a discussion about my increasing lack of physical activity. I used to work out somewhat regularly at a local health club that shut down suddenly amid much controversy. Though I am not in the worst shape, walking into a gym or fitness club feels like giving a speech in my underwear to me. It doesn't matter whether anyone is looking at me or not, I feel like an impostor when I walk into a health club. The new place my wife works out just wasn't doing it for me, and I felt ever more awkward when I went there.

In the midst of our discussion, a light went on in my head. I've dreamed for most of my adult life of taking a Japanese martial art, at least one on this incredibly broad and inclusive list (note: broad and inclusive used sarcastically here).

You see the unifying theme here? Basically, I wanted to "play Samurai", and this workout deal was my "in". I shared this list with Lanette and, with here enthusiastic encouragement, began searching for a local dojo. I spent October and November searching the Internet, using every possible search term I could; asking friends and acquaintances; and posting pleas on twitter. I also trolled a lot of martial arts forums. When all was said and done, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that not a single one of these arts was practiced closer than 40 miles (about 60 minutes driving) from my house. This was not an acceptable commute.

Out of Stock: Hopefully not a harbinger of things to come... (A re-post from my other blog)

A little background...

More often than not, over the last year, when I go online looking for a book, I seem to perpetually find myself facing no options to buy it new from the company I went to in the first place.  Typically, I'm using Amazon, and I get the message that I can buy it from some third-party seller, who may or may not be reputable.  I've assumed, perhaps erroniously, that it's just because I'm looking for old books that weren't that popular.

A recent experience

Recently, I finished the last book in the Tales of the Otori, and I decided I want to read the prequel, "Heaven's Net is Wide", which came out in September of '08.  That's las Fall, kids.  Anyway, once again, the standard buying option is not available! http://tinyurl.com/ykwrtyu While looking at this, somewhat in disbelief because i know this to be a popular series, I did note that the Kindle version was available.  Further investigation revealed many other titles I've sought of late are also only available for the Kindle... A disturbing trend, perhaps.

Now, I wish to temper my words at this point, as I don't want to sound like an alarmist conspiracy-theorist.  I do want to say, as a web-designer, computer teacher, online facilitator,and iPhone user, I take great pleasure and solace in being able to relax with the printed page.  There's something about a real book that NO gadget will EVER replace.  The more Amazon offers books on Kindle only, the more I'll take my money elsewhere...
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